21 July 2015

A 10-Point Primer on the Current Boggo Road Situation

A July 2015 overview on what is happening at Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol and the buildings and tours there.
Artist's impression, Boggo Road Gaol.
The Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society has recently encountered a deal of public confusion regarding the future of Boggo Road. As with an earlier outbreak this year, we are not sure if this is a case of clickbait journalism or certain people running deliberate interference to promote their own agenda.

What we have heard this week is some people saying that there won't be tours at Boggo in the future, or that the place is being knocked down.

I have compiled a 10-point list below that covers the overall situation.

In a nutshell, the heritage prison will close later this year, and then be refurbished and reopened properly. Some of the proposed structural changes were discussed in this article. There will still be tours in the prison in future, with the addition of a museum and other new visitor services. The historic buildings and services should be greatly improved after refurbishment so we in the BRGHS recommend waiting until then to see Boggo.

As I understand it, the big picture looks like this:

  1. The heritage-listed Boggo Road prison reserve is owned by the Queensland Government and managed by the Department of Housing and Public Works. 
  2. The working prisons were decommissioned during the 1980s-1990s and most buildings were subsequently demolished. The surviving red-brick prison is heritage listed. 
  3. That prison operated successfully as a heritage site, run by non-for-profit groups, until 2005 when it was temporarily closed due to surrounding construction works, including the Busway Tunnel. 
  4. In 2011, Leighton Properties were awarded a tender to develop the overall reserve. In addition to the existing Ecoscience building and Leukaemia Foundation facilities, new structures will include around 500 residential apartments and various retail outlets. 
  5. Part of the prison reopened on an interim basis in 2012. Premier Campbell Newman made a private and controversial deal to hand commercial control to a small tour business. Community groups were priced out of Boggo. 
  6. Calile Malouf Investments are currently developing a reuse plan for the prison buildings and immediate surrounds. This is still in the preliminary stage of assessment by the Queensland Government. 
  7. This plan will see part of the prison set aside for historical interpretation and Arts events. Other areas will be used for dining facilities. An indoor market hall will be constructed adjacent to (outside) the prison. 
  8. This plan proposes the removal of some of the newer (1980s) prison structures in the northeast corner. The original red-brick buildings - including all three cellblocks - will remain and be refurbished. 
  9. It is possible that the development plans could be approved later this year, after a period of public consultation. The part of the prison currently open will close in November. Refurbishment will commence upon approval of the plans. It is hoped that this work will be completed by the end of next year. 
  10. When the prison reopens there will still be historical tours there and improved visitor services such as a museum. Different organisations are interested in managing or providing services in the historical section of the prison in future. This includes the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society and partner organisations. It is anticipated that a tender process will determine who will provide tours etc. We understand that this decision will not be made the Queensland Government, but probably by the organisation managing the historical section. 

I hope this makes things clearer for any reader who wasn't sure about what is going on at Boggo. Hopefully the public consultation process will commence soon and then we can all get a clearer picture of the plans and what we think about them. Until then, I'd advise people to remember that tours will be running at Boggo for years into the future.

15 July 2015

The Sad Case of the Belanglo Forest Ghost Tours

Goulburn Ghost Tours sparked controversy with their ghost tours about Ivan Milat's murder victims. Unfortunately, such disrespect is widespread in the paranormal industry.

This story can now be found at 'About Those Ghosts...'

Goulburn Ghost Tours sparked controversy with their ghost tours about Ivan Milat's murder victims.

07 July 2015

'They Don't Know What Death Is': Ghost Hunting at a Suicide Scene

Is it appropriate to hold commercial ghost hunts in places where deaths in custody took place within living memory? This article looks at a Boggo Road case in Queensland.

This story can be read at 'About Those Ghosts...'

06 July 2015

Hobart Paranormalists Harass a Pensioner

Once again a Ghost Tours operation ignores requests for decency and respect.

This story can be read at 'About Those Ghosts...'

Stone cottage, Hobart, Tasmania.
Stone cottage, Hobart.

03 July 2015

Why Ghost Hunting Should be Banned - Part 2

Should 'ghost hunts' be allowed in places where people have recently died, or should we be showing more respect for the dead in places like cemeteries and heritage prisons?

This story can now be read at 'About Those Ghosts...'

Ghot hunting device.

Why Ghost-Hunting Should be Banned - Part 1

Should 'ghost hunts' be allowed in places where people have recently died, or should we be showing more respect for the dead in places like cemeteries and heritage prisons?

This story can now be read at 'About Those Ghosts...'

Ghot hunting device.

History Gets the Finger at the Old Printing Office

Doubts have emerged over a horrifically tragic story told to paying customers on a Brisbane history tour. Was a youth really crushed to death in the old George St. Printing Office?

This story can be read at 'About Those Ghosts...'

The Old Printing Office, George Street, Brisbane, has been the scene of dubious historical stories.
Old Printing Office, George Street, Brisbane. (Brismania)

The Seven Devils of George Street

Medieval 'Printer's Devil'
'Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.' (Mark 16:9)
Anyone familiar with Brisbane's George Street will probably have noticed the bizarre carved relief of a devil's head over the main entrance of the old Government Printing Office. If you are not familiar with it, stop and take a look the next time you are around there.

Then, if you step back a bit, look up to the top of the building and you will see two hooven gargoyles with the same face, perched on the parapet looking out over the street. The trees make viewing a bit tricky, but you might also be able to see four other carved devil faces on the pilasters on the wall below the gargoyles (see photo below).

This means that back in 1911-12, the Queensland Government erected a government building with seven sandstone devils on the front. Why would they have done this? The answer is not as sinister
as some might think. Simply enough, the devil is a historical symbol of the printing industry.

As far as I know, these are the only 'printer's devils' in Australia, although I would be happy to be corrected on this matter.

Why is there a 'Printer's Devil' over the main entrance of the Printing Office, George Street, Brisbane?.
Printer's Devil over main entrance, old Printing Office, George Street, Brisbane. (Public Works)
Gargoyles on the parapet over George Street, Brisbane. Four small devil faces can be seen below these.
The gargoyles on the parapet watch over George Street. Four small devil faces can also be seen near the bottom of this photo. (Brismania)
The gargoyles on the Printing Office in Brisbane hold shields inscribed with 'GP'
The gargoyles hold shields inscribed with 'GP' (Government Printery). (Brismania)

Why the 'Printers Devil'?
There are several different theories, some more plausible than others, as to where this concept came from.

A 'printer's devil' was a nickname given to printer's apprentices, who performed such tasks as mixing ink and fetching type. These apprentices invariably stained themselves with black ink and - as black was associated with the 'black arts' - the nickname 'devil' took hold.

There was also said to be a 'fanciful' belief among printers that print shops were haunted by a special devil who got up to such mischief as inverting type, removing entire lines of completed type, or misspelling words. Historically this figure was Titivillus, a mythical demon that worked on behalf of Satan to introduce errors into the works of scribes. References to Titivillus date back 800 years. It has been suggested that the apprentice became a substitute scapegoat for printery mishaps, leading to the 'devil' nickname.

Another rather implausible account of the origins of the name has John Fust - a business partner of Johannes Gutenberg - selling several of Gutenberg's bibles to King Louis XI of France, claiming that the bibles were hand-copied manuscripts. As the individual letters were identical in appearance, Fust was soon accused of witchcraft and imprisoned. Although he was later freed, many still believed Fust was in league with Satan.

Diego de la Cruz: Virgin of Mercy (c. 1485). Titivillus appears to the right of the image
Diego de la Cruz: Virgin of Mercy (c. 1485), Burgos, Abbey of Santa MarĂ­a la Real de Las Huelgas. Titivillus appears to the right of the image.

A further association with the devil in printing is the name of the hellbox, which was a box that worn and broken lead type was thrown into, and which the printer's devil (apprentice) then took to the furnace for melting and recasting.

Yet another link was 'Deville', the assistant of the the first English printer and book publisher, William Caxton. This was said to have evolved to 'devil' over time and used to describe other printers' apprentices.

All in all there are a number of possible explanations for the concept of the printer's devil, but the link between the ancient Titvullus stories and the ink-stained apprentices seems the most plausible.

There is, however, one other story I came across during research for this article. It comes from an uncomplimentary review of a Brisbane 'Ghost Tour' that stops outside the Printing Office, where the customers are told this story of the devils:
'They are thought to ward off evil spirits, however these ones invite them… Printing presses, much to the displeasure of the church, used to print copies of the Bible. This made the book more accessible to commoners and limited the church’s ability to manipulate its contents. The church therefore condemned printers, citing them in league with the devil. However instead of backing down, the printers took on Lucifer as their patron saint.'
Those are the words of the reviewer, of course. If the content of this review is correct, then the tour guide has got it wrong and a correction is required. The advent of the printing press did present challenges (and opportunities) for organised religion, but Satan is not the patron saint of printers (see instead John Bosco, and Augustine of Hippo). I'd assume that Satan is not the patron saint of anything. Satan isn't even a saint. (The review also relates another tour story about the Printing Office that also seems to be untrue, and that is covered here).

The Printing Office: A very brief history
The new Colonial Government (created by the separation of Queensland from New South Wales in 1859) needed a printing office to print official materials such as Hansard, postage stamps, Government Gazettes, Acts of Parliament, departmental reports, survey maps, electoral rolls, and banknotes.

Government Printing Office, Brisbane, 1912. (John Oxley Library)
Government Printing Office, Brisbane, 1912. (John Oxley Library)

A three-storey brick building facing William Street was constructed during 1872-74 (and is still there today as the Public Service Club), and extended with a three-storey brick building erected along Stephens Lane (1884-87). The complex was further extended in 1910-12 with the erection of the three-storey brick building on George Street. The importance of the printing office to a functioning democracy was reflected by its proximity to Parliament, and the high quality of the buildings themselves. It is inconceivable that modern state governments would build such quality structures, never mind adorning them with finely-sculpted statues and reliefs.

The gargoyles were lifted into position in October 1911:
‘The Printers' Devils.’
Two huge stone figures with sardonic grins on their hard faces were swung into position on the top of the third story of the additions to the Government Printing Office yesterday. From their giddy height they look down on to the traffic below. On the shields which they clasp in their hands is inscribed: ‘G.P.’ - Government Printer. These symbolise that mythical individual supposed to form part of a printing establishment - the printer's devil. The Government Printer is to have a double supply - hence two figures have been carved out and placed in position. Yesterday they were the subject of much curiosity, and speculation. The only thing wanting to complete the symbol is a plentiful supply of printers' ink to the faces, and a couple of aprons of the colour of coal! (Brisbane Courier, 25 October 1911)
Printing Office under construction, George Street, Brisbane, 1910. (John Oxley Library)
Printing Office under construction, 1910. (John Oxley Library)

The Printing Office staff started holding annual balls in 1940, and the decorations for the first event had a 'printer's devil' theme.

The George Street Printing Office closed in 1983 and after some demolitions and modifications to parts of the wider site it was heritage listed in 1992.

The Eighth Devil
In addition to the seven outside the printery, there was at least one more devil inside the building, as shown in this photo of one of the offices in 1921:

Stonework devil in office, George St., Brisbane, 1912. (John Oxley Library)
'A large desk, overflowing with papers, stands in the middle of the room. A safe is positioned against a wall to the side of the desk. On top of the safe is a stonework devil, identical in style to the two gargoyle statues that are perched over the entrance to the building.' (John Oxley Library)
Stonework devil in printing office, George St., Brisbane. (John Oxley Library)
A close-up of the devil on the safe reveals it to be wearing some kind of hat (a crown?) with a Maltese Cross (Queensland government symbol) on the top. Perhaps this was a bit of public service office humour.

I wonder where this rather splendid ornament is now?

The Swagman & the Logan River Shark

Swagmen 'On the Wallaby', Cairns, c.1907.  (State Library Qld)
'On the Wallaby', Cairns, c.1907.
(State Library Qld)
The rivers of Queensland have seen their share of fatal shark attacks, as noted in these stories about Townsville and Brisbane. The less-frequented waterways of the Sunshine State also have their tales to tell. The Logan River, running about 45km south of Brisbane, is home to Bull Sharks (and the very occasional crocodile) and it too has been the scene of a shark-related tragedy.

In March 1903, two poverty-stricken young men named William Bartlett and Perival Horton were walking from Logan to Beenleigh in search of work. During the morning they arrived at the Logan River ferry crossing, about 3km from Beenleigh, but they did not have the required penny to pay ferryman Albert Sommers and so they asked him for a free ride. He refused and advised them to walk the 13km to the nearest bridge. They instead waited at the ferry stop until the afternoon and by chance met Schultz, the owner of the ferry. They asked if he could at least transport their swag across but when he just turned and walked away without answering the two men decided to swim across, even though the tide was up and the river at full width.

Loganholme ferry, Logan River, 1929. This was the scene of a shark attack. (Riverboats, Ferries and Roads)
Loganholme ferry, Logan River, 1929. (Riverboats, Ferries and Roads)

They asked Sommers if there were any sharks about. He told them that none had been seen so they placed half their swag and some clothing on the keel of an upturned boat and pushed it to the other side. They made a return trip for the remainder of their belongings, and about 10 metres from the Beenleigh side Bartlett called out that he had cramps in his leg, but told Horton to carry on and get the swag to shore. Horton did so, but when he turned around he saw that his friend appeared exhausted and so he dived back in and brought him to the bank.

Once on dry land they noticed that what Bartlett had imagined to be cramps was in fact a shark bite, and he had severe wounds on his right leg below the knee. Horton bandaged the leg as best he could with some shirts and hurried to Beenleigh to get help and returned with a cart. Bartlett, by now in a serious condition, was rushed to Beenleigh and attended by a nurse with boric acid (an antiseptic) before being placed on a train and taken to Brisbane. He arrived there at 7.10pm, about 5 hours after the attack had taken place, and was conveyed by ambulance to the General Hospital.

Suffering from shock and a massive loss of blood, Bartlett lingered in a serious and feeble condition at the hospital for two days before he eventually died, officially of 'a lacerated wound and heart failure'. He was 24 years old, an electrician by trade from Birmingham, England, and he was dead because of the lack of a penny in his pocket.
'The unfortunate swagman, William Bartlett, who was attacked by a shark when swimming the Logan River in company with his mate, died in the Brisbane Hospital from his terrible injuries. The feelings of the ferryman who refused these unfortunate, penniless men a lift over in the punt, thus compelling them to swim the river, can be better imagined than described. But perhaps he is only an employee and acted under instructions.' (The Worker, 21 March 1903)
The men had not seen the shark that bit Bartlett, but a 3-metre bull shark was seen in the vicinity about one hour after the attack.
Bull Shark. (Wikipedia)
Bull Shark. (Wikipedia)
This was a common type of shark-related death, in which a chunk of flesh is torn from the body with a single bite and the victim later dies of their injuries. Bull Sharks are known for 'bump-and-bite' attacks, in which they will give their target an investigative bump before returning to take a bite.

There has not been a recorded shark-related fatality in the Logan River since.

Is Toowoomba the Most Haunted City in Australia?

Is Toowoomba, Queensland, really so full of ghosts that it is 'Australia's most haunted' city? Here’s a critical look at the evidence.

This story can now be read at 'About Those Ghosts...'

This photo from 2012 is claimed to be of a 'ghost hovering near a grave'. What it looks more like is shadows on a headstone creating a pareidolia effect.

Dissecting & Anatomising Moreton Bay Convicts

This story can be read at 'A Scaffold High'

William Hogarth's 'The Reward of Cruelty' (1751) showing a fanciful version of the dissection of a hanged criminal. (Wellcome Images)
William Hogarth's 'The Reward of Cruelty' (1751) showing a fanciful version
of the dissection of a hanged criminal. (Wellcome Images)

Fatal Shark Attacks in Ross Creek, Townsville

19th-century shark illustrations.
What is the most dangerous city-side swimming spot in Queensland? If you’re talking about shark attacks, the answer is clear. I have written before about fatal shark attacks in the Brisbane River, but the three (possibly four) deaths in that waterway don’t compare to the statistics for the much-smaller Ross Creek in Townsville, north Queensland.

Ross Creek is an inlet that runs through the heart of Townsville and has been a hub of human activity since the earliest days. While the Brisbane River is over 300km long, Ross Creek is a mere 4km. Despite this, more than 50 people had drowned in the creek by 1950. It is also the habitat of large crocodiles, and during 1907-37 at least eight people were killed there by sharks.

While the freshwater of the Brisbane River can only support Bull Sharks, the brackish waters of the Creek can potentially support more species of sharks (and crocodiles). And sharks in estuarine waters such as Ross Creek have been known to establish themselves and remain there for lengthy periods.

Ross Creek, Townsville (undated), the scene of several fatal shark attacks. (State Library of Qld)
Ross Creek, Townsville (undated) (State Library of Qld).

The events outlined below are of fatal attacks only and do not include the many non-fatal incidents, or the dozens of cases of animals such as dogs being killed in the creek by sharks.

William Williams
In February 1907 a group of eight or nine youths were taking a Sunday morning swim in Ross Creek when a nearby fisherman saw a shark fin about 60cm long emerge near them. He called the alarm and the boys struck for shore, but when they got there they found that one of their friends, 17-year-old William Williams, was missing. One of them had seen splashing were Williams had been, and the water there was ‘crimsoned with blood’. Williams had gone without a sound.

The police dragged the river for days afterwards with no result. The shark was reckoned to be up to 4 metres long, and attempts were made to catch it by baiting a line with a young goat. Five days later a member of the public spotted two legs in the river. A post-mortem showed that the shark had bitten clean through the abdomen and spine. Some lower internal organs were still present. It was left to the boy’s obviously distraught mother to identify these remains.

In the weeks following this tragedy a number of dogs were killed by sharks in the river, including one retriever that was bitten in half. The remaining part of its body was attached to a hook and used as bait, but the shark took that half too without getting hooked. Such attacks were happening on an almost daily basis and it was thought that the same shark – being of ‘enormous proportions’ – was responsible.

A shark hunting expert called Jim Walker came to town to try and catch the creature but he had no success.

Victoria Bridge over Ross Creek, 1887. (State Library of Qld)
Victoria Bridge over Ross Creek, 1887. (State Library of Qld)
Samuel Tristing
Five years passed before the next tragedy. It was New Year’s Day 1912 and a young man called Samuel Tristing was swimming with his friend in Ross Creek near the railways cleaning sheds when he was seized by a shark. He called out desperately but before anything could be done he was taken away. Tristings body was found by the police two hours later, disembowelled, flesh torn from the thighs, and both arms missing.

A few weeks later a big shark attacked and killed a horse in the river, and a hunting party set out to capture the fish. After a two hour battle they landed a shark reported to be about 4 metres long.

Jack Hoey
In January 1919 Jack Hoey, the father of six children under the age of 12, was crab fishing with a friend in Ross Creek. When they finished he went in the creek near the railway bridge for a swim, and he was wading out, with the water just up to his arms, when almost immediately a big shark gripped his leg and wrenched the limb off between the knee and thigh. Hoey’s companion dragged him from the water and an ambulance rushed him to the hospital. He had obviously lost a massive amount of blood and he held on through the night in a critical condition before dying in the morning. Hoey was 38 years old.

Ross Creek, Townsville,1932. This was the scene of several fatal shark attacks. (State Library of Qld)
Ross Creek, 1932 (State Library of Qld)
Robert Milroy
Even more horrific scenes followed in January 1922. Some unemployed men were in the habit of camping near the railway yards by the creek. Among them was Robert Milroy, aged 54, who entered the creek with three other men one Sunday afternoon with the intention of crossing to the other side for some prawning. Milroy was attacked and pulled under by a 3.5-metre shark, and very soon another four or five sharks were fighting over his body in the bloodied waters.

The police dragged the river for his body but found nothing. A fisherman helping with a net actually pulled in a 4-metre shark that then managed to escape. Milroy’s right leg was found some days later, stripped of flesh apart from the foot.

A few months later J Rennie, a recent arrival to Townsville, fell off the Victoria Bridge one night. He probably drowned, but when his body was found on the bank of the Ross Creek several days later it had no head and the flesh had been stripped from the legs.

Edward Hobbs
The next victim of the river sharks was 42-year-old Edward Hobbs. Walking along a concrete wharf by Ross Creek one afternoon in September 1929, Hobbs slipped and fell into the water below. The tide was low and he fell some way before landing flat. It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, because almost as soon as he hit the water a shark attacked him, ripping the flesh off both his legs below the knees. A second bite practically took his right leg off. Hobbs cried out and two men on the opposite bank immediately rowed to his assistance in a boat and drove the shark away, but he died just a few minutes after they got him back to the ferry landing.

Unidentified Male
Just three months after the death of Hobbs, a naked body was found floating in the Ross Creek near the Victoria Bridge. Nobody knew who it was, but it seemed to be a man about 50 years old, 6 feet tall, and with a ginger moustache. His right arm was missing and only the bone of his left arm remained. The flesh on his right leg had been ripped away, and his chest and abdomen had been ‘torn away’. A post-mortem revealed that he had died of shock and shark bite, and had been in the water for about 48 hours. He was never identified.

Shark caught in Ross Creek, c.1900. (CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection)
Shark caught in Ross Creek, c.1900.
(CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection)
Arthur Tomida
The next fatality was 19-year-old Arthur Tomida, who died while prawning with his father in Ross Creek in March 1931. Their net had become snagged so the two men waded out into the chest-deep water, where Arthur attempted to free the net with his foot. Suddenly a large shark gripped the back of his leg, tearing most of the flesh from his thigh. He cried out and his father rushed to his aid, pulling him back to the bank about 3 metres away. Unfortunately a main artery had been torn away and Arthur bled to death within minutes, in his father’s arms.

William Tennant
Six years passed before the river sharks claimed their next victim. William Tennant was 33 years old and well-known as a member of the North Queensland representative rugby league team. After having a few drinks, he swam across the Ross Creek one Saturday night in May 1937 to ‘take a short cut’ to the city, and had almost reached the other side when he was attacked by a shark. He cried out for hep and a ferryman hurriedly rowed over to the scene, but there was a swirl and Tennant was carried about 20 metres out into the water.

By the time the ferryman reached him, Tennant was ‘bleeding profusely from fearful injuries’. His left arm was gone, and his left leg had been stripped of muscle and flesh. He was rushed to hospital but was dead upon arrival, the cause of death later given to be cardiac failure, haemorrhage, and shark bite.

A 3-metre shark that had been seen near ferry pontoon that day was thought to be responsible for the attack, and baits were set the next day to catch it. This did not seem to succeed, although a 4-metre shark was caught one week later in Ross Creek (see photo below).

A 4-metre shark caught one week after a fatal shark attack in Ross Creek. (Townsville Daily Bulletin, 22 May 1937)
(Townsville Daily Bulletin, 22 May 1937)

It should also be noted that at least five people were killed by sharks off the coast at Townsville during this time, making a total of 13 fatal shark attacks in the direct vicinity of the city during those 30 years. And then...

There has not been a fatal attack in the Ross Creek since. Shark attack deaths continued to occur off the coast, but none in the inlet. I'm not sure why this is the case. Is it down to more sensible use of the creek, or increased river traffic, the periodic pollution (as with the Sugar Shed Fire of 1963), or just good luck? If anyone has any ideas on this, I'd like to hear them.

For now, reading through the horrible events that did take place in the creek all those years ago, we should just be thankful they have stopped.

Hanged & Dissected... For Picking a Man's Brains

This story can be read at 'A Scaffold High'.

Commissariat Store, William Street, Brisbane, scene of a murder in 1828.
Commissariat Store, William Street, Brisbane.

The Saga of the Thargomindah Bunyip

Bunyip sketch, 1930s. In the Queensland winter of 1941, as the Second World War raged overseas, the 290 residents of the small country town of Thargomindah (1,100 km west of Brisbane) were distracted by reports of a strange creature lurking in nearby Lake Dynevor. News spread far and wide, and for a few months newspapers around the country followed the story of this new and mysterious ‘bunyip’.

The saltwater and freshwater lakes on the old Dyvenor station cover a wide area, some being about a mile wide and between 10-20 miles in length. Unusually heavy rain in early 1941 had greatly expanded their capacity and they provided sanctuary for many birds, including black swans and thousands of gulls (it is now part of the Lake Bindegolly National Park and home to over 200 species of birds). It was after these big rains that tales began to emerge of an elusive animal creature being seen in the waters.

Locals soon formed a range of opinions on what this animal might be. Ideas included seals, turtles, wild pigs, musk ducks, and the obligatory ‘bunyip’, which was a water-dwelling creature of Aboriginal mythology. Some said the creature had a body between three to four feet long, while others claimed it to be the ‘size of a bulldog’.

Lake Bindegolly National Park, scene of an alleged bunyip sighting in the 1940s.
Lake Bindegolly National Park.

The shire clerk told the Courier-Mail that about 20 people had glimpsed it. Two men, one a postal inspector and the other a station manager, had chased it in a boat at dawn before it disappeared into some rushes. One of them had attempted to photograph it, apparently unsuccessfully. He claimed it showed up in the negative but was indistinguishable in the print. They saw the creature from about 90 metres away in weak dawn light:
‘It was nothing like anything I’ve seen… The head was black and at least a foot long, and the animal was grunting and splashing a lot. From the size of the head I would say it was about 6 feet long. I was told that many years ago a seal was seen in the Dynevor chain of lakes.'
One of the men, J.G. Utz, also said that 'its head, which raised about 12 to 18 inches above the water, reminded me of a seal'. The news was picked up in Adelaide, where a newspaper reported that about a dozen people swore they had seen ‘a strange animal frolicking in the Dynevor Lake’, with most descriptions matching that of a seal. An implausible suggestion for how a seal would be in a saltwater lake over a thousand kilometres from the coast was given, in that ‘a seagull, one of thousands which flock to the lake, played stork and carried a baby seal from the coast!’

After months of scepticism about earlier sightings, the new reports prompted search parties from Thargomindah to head to the lake, eager to solve the mystery. Mr G. Gooch, owner of Thargomindah station, proposed to place a net across the neck of water where he had seen the creature, in the hope of catching it. He also claimed that ‘the bunyip resembles a seal, but it was impossible to say what it was’. He told Queensland Country Life that the Thargomindah bunyip was ‘no mere figment of imagination’ and that he intended to capture it and ‘confound the sceptics’.

The shores of the lake became a drawcard for dozens of travellers on the Cunnamulla-Thargomindah road, and they watched out for the creature near Broken Dam, part of the lake system. Many early-morning bunyip-spotters claimed to have seen it, although it always seemed to vanish before they get close enough for an accurate description.

On 17 August, the Sunday Mail reported that ‘The Thargomindah ‘bunyip’ - now a well-recognised local identity - startled residents this week by appearing with a mate’. There was now speculation that there may be in fact a whole family of the creatures:
‘Last week two of the animals showed themselves at the same time to a party of sightseers. ‘They were as alike as two peas, and we weren’t seeing double,’ said one of the party. ‘They were black, about 2ft. 6in. long, with heads like dogs, and very prominent ears. They swirled away as soon as they spotted us. Probably one was male and one female, but we couldn’t tell from where we were, about 50 yards away. They looked just the same.’
One week later a search expedition armed with guns and cameras was delayed while a local Warrego by-election was contested. Another recent sighting had the creature as having ‘a head like a mastiff and a tail like a duck’.

James Annand, Mayor of Toowoomba, then claimed to have shot at a ‘bunyip’ at Felton, near Toowoomba, some 40 years earlier.
‘As an alternative, he describes it as a moss duck. ‘The moss duck is a queer creature,’ the Mayor said. ‘It has a very large head and short neck. When it appears above water the head is doubled into the breast, giving the appearance of a large, shaggy animal’s head, surmounted by two pointed ears. Those who know the bird have never seen it fly. It dives and reappears anything from 20 to 50 yards away. It is very rare, and possibly the bunyips reported in Broken Dam, near Thargomindah, are moss ducks.’’
There is no such thing as a ‘moss duck’ and I presume what was referred to here was a Musk Duck. The male of this species grows to about 70 cm long and has a distinctive large, leathery lobe underneath the bill

A Musk Duck, which was sometimes confused with 'bunyips'.
Musk Duck

Despite this, Mr Utz was adamant that what he had seen was not a ‘moss duck’. He saw it twice and still guessed that it was a seal. He told one reporter:
‘What impressed me most about the animal was that it showed much shrewdness and curiosity. On each occasion I saw it, the animal waited until I had crossed the water before it broke the surface to have a look round to see what was going on.’
All the publicity surrounding the alleged bunyip led to concerns about hunters converging on the lakes, so in September the state government appointed G. Gooch and J.D. McLaren as ‘honorary ranger for the Dyvenor Lake bird and animal sanctuary’ or - as was reported in some newspapers – ‘Keepers of the Thargomindah bunyip’. From now on, the bunyip could only be shot with a camera, and Gooch led search parties intent on photographing the beast.

Carnavon’s Northern Times then reported another interesting description of the creature.
‘Mr. R.R. Smith, of Thyangra, who claims to have seen the ‘bunyip,’ said it was about three feet long, two feet six inches around the body, representing a football in shape, but tapering to the head and tail… The head was like that of a pug dog, but more pointed, and appeared to have strings or fibres hanging down from the upper lip. Its colour was mousy brown, with a definite polish, and it seemed to be rather inquisitive.’
Sightings seem to have stopped around September 1941, and interest in the saga of the Thargomindah Bunyip soon waned. The search parties gave up their pursuit of it, and it was never seen again.

In retrospect, it is probably safe to assume that what was seen was either dingoes or foxes out to raid the nests of water birds, or other species of birds attracted by the expanded post-rain lakes. Whatever it was, it would be a natural explanation. Unlike Lowood and their hoax bunyip, the locals have not used the ‘Thargomindah Bunyip’ to promote the area, although a Sydney newspaper article of 1941 predicted that could well happen:
‘Should the Thargomindah bunyip prove to be genuine and not merely of the fabulous kind, the little town-ship (which is already notable for having its very own electric street lights) will certainly become very famous Indeed. Tourists will doubtless flock there in gratifying numbers and a monument may even be erected to the bunyip's honour in the main street.’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 30 August 1941)
It wasn't to be.

(Please Don't Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear

A teddy bear that starts flashing lights and talking to ghosts if they think there's one in the room. It's the perfect gift for the child you hate.

This story can now be read at 'About Those Ghosts...'

This ghost-detecting teddy bear takes ghost hunting industry to new depths.

The Strange Case of the Brisbane River Monster

19th-century depiction of the bunyip of Aboriginal legend (Australian Illustrated News, 1 October 1890)
If the following newspaper account is anything to go by, then in 1898 the residents of the small town of Lowood, 66km west of Brisbane, were in the grip of 'monster fever'.

Situated by the upper reaches of the Brisbane River, this was a quiet, remote spot with dairy farms and a strong German community. During 1898 there were a number of strange occurrences and alleged sightings of some kind of large creature in the river there. Some claimed it be a crocodile, others a massive dog with tusks, and others said it had wings or fins. The name 'bunyip' was also used, linking it to a large creature from Aboriginal mythology.

There were even reports of the creature leaving the waters at night to walk on land and attack cattle!

The situation came to a head in August 1898, and the Brisbane Courier presented this account of the extraordinary events at Lowood:
"Reported Monster in the Brisbane River. (From our Lowood Correspondent.)
September 1. 
Ever since last flood, rumours have been prevalent that there was some animal of the alligator species in the river here. Several fishing parties have reported being disturbed by the appearance of the monster, demon, or whatever it was, which scared the piscators so much that they retired in much haste and trepidation. 
Others have said that the animal was seen to come out of the river at night and attack cattle grazing on the bank. One report was to the effect that a calf was, on one occasion, carried bodily into the water and devoured. The monster was described by some who saw it as being something similar to a Newfoundland dog with a ferocious head and large tusks. Others affirmed that it had wings or large fins and yet resembled an alligator in its motions when on dry land.
If it could only be located it was the determination of numerous residents to destroy the brute. When seen, however, no fire-arms were in the hands of the surprised beholders. Last Thursday night, a party of 'opossum-shooters when near the river were surprised to see the monster floating in the river, and only too glad of the opportunity of distinguishing themselves by clearing the river of the "devourer," they fired ten shots which did not prevent the "bunyip" from speeding away up the river to the long waterhole opposite Lindermann's cultivation.

The monster having thus been located the night of Friday last was fixed for a party to effect its destruction. The appointment was made for 5 p.m., and the "vigilance committee" were to assemble at the Lowood School of Arts. About twenty of the residents (armed with guns), together with Constable Fagg and others, accordingly met at the "trysting-place" and determined to get to the scene of action with as little delay as possible. A move was accordingly made to the bottom of Mr. Lindermann's paddock on the river bank, and, after the party had traversed the bank some half hour or so, one of the scouts reported seeing a dark moving object on the other side of the river on a large log. The object had scarcely been noted when it jumped or dived off the log with considerable noise and splashing, and came towards the party bent upon its destruction. As it rapidly and fearlessly approached, some who were rather timid were for firing and scaring the monster off, but the leader of the party counselled them to reserve their fire until a nearer approach of the creature. The right time having arrived the order was given, and a volley from the party was fired at the approaching object. Another volley was next poured in, with shots at intervals of a few minutes until the advance of the monster was stayed and the body seemed to float away up the stream.

The firing brought quite a crowd of the principal residents on the scene, and a boat was soon manned to follow the carcase of the supposed dead bunyip. The party in the boat on nearing the unknown, fired once more, and then secured the floating body. Loud cries of "Have ye got him?" "Is he dead?" "Get him to land?" &c. were directed to the party in the boat who were hauling aboard the river monster. It was soon found to the disgust of the slayers, that the bunyip wore make up. The skin of a wallaby had been stuffed over an empty wooden case and an ingenious arrangement of cords fixed so that the "demon" could be pulled through the water. This was rather a "sell" for many persons who thought that "behemoth" was genuine, and the affair has caused a lot of fun.
September 4.
The excitement and amusement created by the bunyip hoax on Friday have not yet subsided and the sayings of those who were determined to capture the monster cause no end of merriment. There were about ten men of K company present with forty rounds of ball cartridges and about twenty of the young men round here (seven with shot guns), while others (on hearing the first volley fired at the river) made haste to the scene of action, bent on having a view of the leviathan.
The excitement was intense. The independent firing continued until the halliards or ropes attached to the "creature" were cut and then the boat was manned and the shooters made towards the supposed dying bunyip. On their near approach, however, the remaining rope was pulled by the unseen operator and the crew of the boat paused, some saying, "Look out! don't let us get too close, for we do not know what he may do." A hurried consultation resulted in their deciding to let the monster have another volley to make quite sure.

The deed was done and the boatsmen then got near the object of their pursuit and pulled it on board, when they were surprised to find that lately "terrible monster" was, as one remarked, "only a b——y box !" Those who had before held back, being rather afraid, now, on hearing that the "monster" was dead, drew near to the boats and the surprise of the assembled crowd was very amusing.

The "bunyip" was on view at the Lowood Railway Station yesterday. It is about 5ft. long (tail included) with a head like that of a good sized calf, covered with swanskin, black leather being over its nose. The tail was made of swanskin and grey wallaby skin, and the ears of wallaby skin, with wire appliances to keep the ears stiff. The "body" was simply an old wooden case. At the railway station, on the arrival of the trains, a general move of the passengers was made to view the "bunyip," and it is the talk of the whole district.

Some say that one resident of the Pocket had offered £40 for the capture of the monster that was reported to be seen in the river some months ago, when the calves were being missed. A report was also rife that the Government were willing to give £200 for the monster, for the Museum, and there were several disputes, before the finale as to how these rewards were to be shared by the armed and unarmed hunters of "the River Terror." Nothing in the hoax line that has happened here has caused so much laughter for many a year."
So it was after all an elaborate hoax, and one worthy of any modern-day monster or ghost prankster. This detailed account of the details behind the events appeared in 1940:
'When fuller investigation was made it was found that the leader of the volley party, Mr. C.H.D. Lindemann, was the perpetrator. The bunyip was a box covered with wallaby hide, with swansdown ears and sole leather sewn on for its nose. It was made by Messrs. Lindemann and K. Smythe, Mr. Smythe being a bootmaker. The only other person in the joke, apart from those operating the device was the police sergeant at Lowood. The "bunyip" was fastened to a wire across the river, on an angle, and was worked by a device and pulleys by Mr. F. Smythe behind a gum tree on Vernor's side and by Mr. Jack Lindemann on the Lowood side. The men working the pulleys were high up on the bank and out of harm's way. Mr. Arthur Nunn also knew a good deal of the arrangements. The "bunyip" was brought to Lowood and lay at the railway station. Its badly riddled body was viewed by hundreds; many photographs were taken and all southern papers gave it widespread publicity. Mr. Lindemann said that many cuttings from southern papers made interesting reading; but they were all destroyed in a fire at Lowood some years ago. Lowood's "bunyip" was the most talked of thing for some time. If Lowood had not been on the map before, it certainly was then. Mr. C.H.D. Lindemann still enjoys telling the story. He said after that he got the blame for everything that happened whether be knew anything about it or not.' (Queensland Times, 1 January 1940)
Carl Hermann Detlef Lindemann, 1873-1952,  shopkeeper, inventor, first-class monster  hoaxer. (State Library Qld)
Carl Hermann Detlef Lindemann, 1873-1952, shopkeeper, inventor, first-class monster hoaxer. (State Library Qld)

It is perhaps fortunate that the hoax was exposed so soon. As we have seen with other fantasy creatures such as Bigfoot and Nessie, a hoax that is left unexposed for too long becomes accepted as unshakable fact by paranormalists. Despite its acknowledged origins as a joke, the tale has been retold ever since and the 'Lowood Bunyip' has become an established part of the local culture. A replica bunyip played a prominent part in the Lowood State School's centenary celebrations in 1981, and they have recently adopted 'Horis the Bunyip' as their school mascot. A history of the tale on their website unfortunately fails to mention it was a hoax. You can even visit the Lowood Bunyip Twilight Markets, who have their own bunyip logo in the form of Bruce the Bunyip.

Bruce the Bunyip, logo of the 'Lowood Bunyip Twilight Markets', Queensland.

Carl HD Lindemann would no doubt be amazed at the longevity of his elaborate prank. It is a local fame, however, that is well deserved.

The Tale of the Logan Crocodile

‘We are informed by a correspondent that on Thursday last Mr. William Hammel… of Beenleigh, observed a large alligator on the bank of the river near Loganholm ferry. Mr. Hammel procured a rifle and succeeded in wounding the saurian, which took to the water, and disappeared. From time to time of late the existence of an alligator in the Logan River has been alleged, but no credence has been given to these reports, as no authentic record exists of the occurrence of the alligator in Queensland rivers south of the Mary.’ (Brisbane Courier, 1 March 1905)
'Logan River has been alleged, but no credence has been given to these reports, as no authentic record exists of the occurrence of the alligator in Queensland rivers south of the Mary.'

In the early 1900s a series of alleged sightings of crocodiles (or ‘alligators’, as they were often incorrectly termed at the time) in the Moreton Bay area were met with some scepticism, as this was thought to be too far south of the animal’s natural habitat. Despite this, the witnesses were usually quite adamant, like the man who was swimming near a sandy cove at Lota, on Moreton Bay, in December 1900 when he saw what he described as a ‘big log’ rise out of the water. He very quickly got back to shore but his friend supposed he must have seen a dolphin. However, one morning in 1902 he was in the same area looking across to Green Island and saw a ‘big animal of some sort’ running along a sand bank. He told a friend, who was sceptical and joked about it being his ‘sea serpent’, but a few days later she saw it herself through binoculars and claimed it to be a crocodile.

Map showing the distribution of saltwater crocodiles in Australia. (Australian Reptile Online Database)
Saltwater crocodile distribution (Australian Reptile Online Database)
here are also stories from around this time that a crocodile in the Albert River nearly overturned a ferry boat full of schoolchildren. Another story had a man swimming in the Logan and then being grabbed and pulled under before escaping. Witnesses to this event stated it was a crocodile. However, I have as yet found no corroborating evidence for these stories.

Another sighting took place on Fisherman’s Island, at the mouth of the Brisbane River, where a man claimed to have seen a crocodile with a ‘bunged-up’ eye. David Drennan, the lighthouse keeper at Fisherman Island, also reported seeing a crocodile near there in 1898. He estimated it to be about seven feet long. It was lying on the mud, and upon being disturbed it disappeared in the river. Drennan inspected its tracks and recognised them to be those of a crocodile.

A few newspaper stories in March 1892 referred to the supposed presence of a crocodile in the Brisbane River. A man fishing from a punt near New Farm claimed that an ‘alligator’ charged at his boat and he rammed one of his oars down the creature’s throat before heading for the bank. The croc gave chase but was apparently distracted by a barking dog on the shore, allowing the man to scramble ashore at Breakfast Creek.

There was some scepticism over this tale, but over the following weeks many more people claimed to have also seen it. There was talk of a hunting party being assembled to hunt the animal, but it seemed to have long gone and was never mentioned again.

Speculation reached fever pitch after Hammel shot and injured the crocodile in the Logan in February 1905. AJ Boyd recalled that back in 1870 he owned the Pimpama-Ormeau sugar plantation about 50km south of Brisbane. The plantation was next to a large swamp, and one day the manager told him that he had been sitting near the swamp when he heard a crackling noise in the nearby rushes, and a ‘long iguana-like animal came into view on the edge of the water’. It was, he said, ‘either the bunyip or an alligator’. Sometime later, during a drought, they burnt off the reeds by the water's edge and noticed strange tracks there. In later years, Boyd saw crocodile tracks near the Herbert River and realised they were the same type as the ones he had seen at Pimpama. He was then convinced that there had been a crocodile on his plantation, and he even suggested that it could be the same one that Hammel had shot at.

A plausible explanation soon emerged for the presence of the animal so far south. It was said that about nine years earlier two ‘well-known’ Brisbanites had received the crocodile as a Christmas gift from some northern friends. During the night it escaped from the case it was contained in and vanished without a trace. About a week later some fisherman reported seeing a ‘strange monster resembling an alligator’ off Fisherman Island.

A few weeks after the Hammel shooting, fishermen spotted the crocodile on mud banks at Garden (Tindappah) Island, not far from the mouth of the Logan. It was next seen in June 1905 when it was shot at by Charlie Goetsch in the river opposite his property near Waterford West. The wounded animal then floated upstream to a ferry landing near the Logan village, where it was found dead a few days later by local storekeeper Alf Hinds. A few other men arrived and they pulled it up onto the bank.

The Logan crocodile, 1905. John Storey, Jack and Alf Hinds, Mr Cook, Mr Rump and Fred Manitzky. (Qld State Library)
The Logan crocodile, 1905. The men are John Storey (farmer), Jack and Alf Hinds (storekeeper),
Mr Cook (school master), Mr Rump (publican) and Fred Manitzky (blacksmith). (Qld State Library)

According to the Brisbane Courier, the crocodile measured a substantial 12 feet 7 inches long (3.83 metres), and its stomach contained corn, several ducks and small turtles. Excited locals gathered to inspect the new curiosity and pose beside it. It was originally intended to stuff the animal and keep it in Logan, but later reports suggest that its skin was displayed on a Logan Village school wall for many years afterwards. The photo below shows a child posing next to the freshly-skinned crocodile.

A boy examines the head of the crocodile from Logan River, 1905. (Brisbane Courier)
(Brisbane Courier, 19 August 1905)

No crocodiles have since been sighted this far south, although one did turn up in the Mary River, near Maryborough, in 2012.


The following story appeared in the Brisbane Courier in 1926: